Honouring the best in Canadian blues, the 23rd annual Maple Blues Awards were held at Koerner Hall in Toronto Monday night (Feb. 3). Kingston, ON's Miss Emily won three in the categories of Female Vocalist, New Artist and the Sapphire Video Award, while New Brunswick’s Matt Andersen took home trophies for Male Vocalist of the Year and Acoustic Act of the Year, and Montreal’s Dawn Tyler Watson was awarded Recording/Producer of the Year and Songwriter of the Year.
For only the second time in Maple Blues Awards history, there were tied winners in two categories - Harpdog Brown and Steve Marriner both won Harmonica Player of the Year and Chris Whiteley and Mat “Moose” Mousseau each won the award for Horn Player of the Year.
The Blues with a Feeling Award (Lifetime Achievement Award) was awarded to Montreal-based Michael Jerome Browne, whose long and illustrious career has seen him tour around the world, record seven albums and guest on countless others. He recently was nominated for Blues Album of the Year at the upcoming Juno Awards. Also honoured for a long career dedicated to the preservation and promotion of blues music was Toronto Blues Society’s own Brian Blain, who received the Blues Booster of the Year Award.
A new addition to the Maple Blues Awards program is the inaugural Sapphire Video Award. Sapphire has one single category and both live performance and staged production/interpretive videos were accepted. The winner of the Sapphire Video Award was Miss Emily for her video for Hold Back The River (see below) with the runners up announced as Terra Hazelton for her video for Anybody’s Baby and Lucas Haneman Express for their video for the song Ms. McGrim. The winning artist received a cash prize of $1,500 while the two runners up each received $250.
A collaboration between The Toronto Blues Society and Paul Reddick, the sixth annual Cobalt Prize for Contemporary Blues Composition Award promotes blues music through exploration of its form. The winning composition was judged on its ability to creatively utilize blues traditions within the broad contemporary musical landscape. The winner of the Cobalt Prize for Contemporary Blues Composition was Rich Junco for his song Cope, while the first runner up was Bad Luck Woman & Her Misfortunes for their song Cruel Thing and a tied win for the second runner up, Joe Nolan for Paranoia Day 36 Blues and Loryn Taggart for In My Company. A cash prize of $1000 was presented to the winner and the runners up each received $250.
The Awards featured performances from Big Dave McLean, Matchedash Parish, Miss Emily, Dawn Tyler Watson, Michael Jerome Browne, and the evening’s hostess Raha Javanfar (Bad Luck Woman) with special guests, students from The Regent Park School of Music, all backed by the awards house band The Maple Blues Band.
The Winners of the 23rd Annual Maple Blues Awards
Entertainer of the Year
Downchild Blues Band
Electric Act of the Year
Acoustic Act of the Year
Male Vocalist of the Year
Female Vocalist of the Year
New Artist of the Year
Recording/Producer of the Year
Dawn Tyler Watson - Mad Love / Self (François Thiffault & Dawn Tyler Watson)
B.B. King International Artist of the Year
Songwriter of the Year
Dawn Tyler Watson
Blues with a Feeling Award (Lifetime Achievement Award)
Michael Jerome Browne
Guitarist of the Year
Harmonica Player of the Year
Piano/Keyboard of the Year
Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne
Horn Player of the Year
Mat “Moose” Mousseau (Ben Racine Band)
Drummer of the Year
Tom Bona (Sue Foley)
Bassist of the Year
Alec McElcheran (Paul DesLauriers Band)
Blues Booster of the Year